Celebrate South African and Ghanaian dance on the stages of New York with South African choreographer Dada Masilo at the Joyce (May 23–28), and the National Theater of Ghana’s National Dance Company as part of the annual DanceAfrica Festival at BAM (May 26–29).   

The Sacrifice, Masilo’s ritual expression of Tswana, the traditional dance of Botswana, was inspired by Pina Bausch’s “The Rite of Spring” and “…expands upon the concept of sacrifice, building a unique narrative by fusing ballet with modern and traditional dance to reimagine classic tales. The Tswana dance is both rhythmic and expressive, rooted in storytelling and healing practices—a fertile base on which Masilo expertly melds disparate styles,” according to the press release. For more information, visit https://www.joyce.org/performances/dada-masilo.

For the 46th year, BAM’s DanceAfrica Festival returns under the artistic direction of Abdel R. Salaam, with the theme “Golden Ghana: Adinkra, Ananse, and Abusua” and featuring traditional Ghanaian dances and music, including the royal court dance kete and fontomfrom drumming in their BAM debut.  

Also on the program is a club scene with Ghanaian and Nigerian highlife music performed by the 10-piece ensemble Arkestra Africa with Afropop vocalist Amma Whatt, plus the DanceAfrica Spirit Walkers and BAM/RestorationART Dance Youth Ensemble. For more information, visit https://www.bam.org/dance/2023/danceafrica-golden-ghana.

Also this month:

May 4–6: nia love’s multimedia performance work UNDERcurrents comes to Harlem Stage as part of the WaterWorks series and asks: “What remains of the Middle Passage as force, gesture, and affect?” The production “explore(s) the question through the themes of water and doors, as the point of departure for captive Africans into the Middle Passage is often described as ‘the door of no return,’” said the release. For more information, visit https://www.harlemstage.org/nia-love.

May 4–7: At BAC, Miguel Gutierrez’s newest work, “I as another,” is a duet performed with Laila Franklin. It “takes place in a future/present dystopia and explores the virtual architecture of memory, what it means to be alongside one another, and how existential despair has come into public view,” said the release. For more information, visit https://bacnyc.org/performances/performance/miguel-gutierrez.

May 5–12: Performance artist Autumn Knight will be at Performance Space New York in in NOTHING#122: a bed, a suite of performances for three weekends described as “an ongoing investigation into the sweetness of nothingness,” according to the release. Part one is a social experiment, transforming the Keith Haring Theatre into a host club. Part two is a choreographic and installation-based work that pares down and formalizes Nothing #122’s approach to intimacy, using the bed as a site for all things beginning and ending—where everything and nothing happens. Part three sees Knight alone onstage, responding improvisationally to the space, its architecture, its audience, and more.  

For more information, visit https://performancespacenewyork.org/shows/nothing122-a-bed/.

May 7–21: Malcolm-x Betts is part of the May lineup at Cathy Weis Projects’ Sundays on Broadway, featuring evenings of new and in-progress works by 12 artists with varied movement practices. For more information, visit https://cathyweis.org/calendar/may-14-2023-malcolm-x-betts-factress-and-dance-explosion-iris-mccloughan-and-jessie-young/.

May 9–12: Nrityagram Dance Ensemble and Chitrasena Dance Company come together at the Joyce with Odissi, classical dance from India, and traditional Kandyan dance from Sri Lanka in Āhuti, meaning “offering.” For more information, visit https://www.joyce.org/performances/nrityagram-chitrasena.

May 10–13: Join the Dancing While Black community as they continue to celebrate their 10th anniversary with timeless events, virtually and in-person, with their partners BAAD!, NYU’s Hemispheric Institute, and the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University. For more information, visit https://angelaspulse.org/.

May 11–13: At Gibney Dance, the New York City-based dance and social justice organization will present the world premiere of Kazunori Kumagai’s Tap Into the Light with a list of guest artists. For more information, visit https://gibneydance.org/event/kazunori-kumagai/2023-05-11/.

May 12: The Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, in collaboration with Flushing Town Hall, returns for the 10th CrossCurrent Dance Since. This year, the company will celebrate its own history of cross-cultural collaboration by featuring the new work Between, in progress by Jacek Luminski and PeiJu Chien-Pott 簡珮如, the company’s director of New and Contemporary Dance, plus more. For more information, visit https://flushingtownhall.org/2023-crosscurrent

May 12–14: The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, led by artistic director Robert Battle, returns to NJPAC with “New Jersey Premieres,” including Kyle Abraham’s Are You in Your Feelings?; In a Sentimental Mood by Jamar Roberts; and the “Classic Ailey” program with Survivors (1986), Reflections in D, Night Creature, and Revelations. For more information, visit https://www.njpac.org/event/alvin-ailey-american-dance-theater-2/May 18: As part of the Works & Process series at the Guggenheim, “The History of Waacking,” a dance form born in the ’70s by Black, gay underground clubs of Los Angeles, will be presented with Princess Lockerooo. For more information, visit https://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2023/05/18/works-process-history-waacking-princess-lockerooo.

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